Garden Work: The Horticultural Formation of American Literature, 1850-1930
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CitationWierzbicki, Kaye Jocelyn. 2014. Garden Work: The Horticultural Formation of American Literature, 1850-1930. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
AbstractGarden Work argues that American literature's sense of form developed as part of an ongoing theoretical conversation with the field of garden design. Of particular significance to American writers was a horticultural dispute that took on a renewed sense of urgency in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: that between the garden naturalists, who crafted gardens to look like un-designed natural spaces, and the garden formalists, who crafted gardens that visually distinguish between human and wilderness sites. This dissertation identifies a literary cohort within this horticentric period--Nathaniel Hawthorne, Sarah Orne Jewett, Edith Wharton, and Willa Cather--who enter into the naturalism/formalism debates via their garden journals, environmental reforms, manifestoes, and the design of their own yards and gardens. Though initially attracted to garden design for different reasons, these authors all become increasingly skeptical of the ideological assumptions behind garden naturalism and increasingly fascinated by old-fashioned traditions of formal gardening, such as Italian, French, and Colonial Revival gardens.
Garden Work reveals both the impact that garden design has on America's literary history and the theoretical contributions that literature can make to garden design. On the one hand, the authors I study integrate their garden work into the narrative fabric of their most canonical texts, often at those moments when they are most self-reflective about what it means to produce formally innovative fiction that is nevertheless rooted in natural American landscapes. For these writers, garden formalism becomes central to their ability to imagine American literature in the wake of the American Renaissance. On the other hand, these authors are enabled by their expertise in the medium of prose fiction to identify new theoretical problems within and features of garden design. Specifically, their ability to articulate garden theory not in terms of a conflict between art and nature but rather as a dynamic relationship between form and content, a relationship they encounter repeatedly in their literary work, permits these authors to analyze in innovative ways the social, environmental, and aesthetic consequences of garden design. Ultimately, Garden Work uncovers the interwoven nature of America's garden history and its literary history.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:13070044
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